Severe April flooding in Hawaii linked to climate change

A report in the Sun Sentinel found that the destructive flooding that struck Kauai, Hawaii, in mid-April has been linked to climate change.

A report in the Sun Sentinel found that the destructive flooding that struck Kauai, Hawaii, in mid-April has been linked to climate change. According to the National Weather Service, nearly 50 inches of rain fell in a matter of 24 hours, triggering landslides and flash flooding.

Animals and vehicles were swept away by the flood waters and houses were wiped off of their foundations. Hundreds of people were rescued and evacuated by buses, boats, jet skis, and helicopters. Remarkably, no one was killed or seriously injured during the storm.

A total of eight landslides blocked the main highway on the island’s north shore, and authorities say it is not yet clear when people will be able to return.

Kawika Winter is a natural resource manager who is studying how communities respond to the extreme weather events that are linked to climate change. He pointed out to the Sun Sentinel that this is the most severe rainfall event to strike Hawaii since weather was first recorded in 1905.

While some are referring to it as a 100-year-flood, Winter predicts that an event of this magnitude will happen again in the next few years, as weather patterns are rapidly shifting with climate change.

“In the Pacific Islands, we don’t have the luxury of debating whether climate change is real,” Winter told the Sun Sentinel.

“Climate change is affecting us, and has been for some time. There are striking similarities with the flooding that we experienced on Kauai and the recent flooding in California. The warmer atmosphere is holding more moisture and that builds up until it meets with cold dry air, creating this massive unstable system, which causes what some meteorologists are now referring to as a ‘rain bomb.’”

The record for a 24-hour period of rainfall in Hanalei was set in 2012 at 28.54 inches. Meteorologist Chevy Chevalier says that it is “highly likely” that this storm broke the record, but the gauge stopped working at 28.1 inches.

Dr. Charles “Chip” Fletcher is a climate science expert and a professor of Geology and Geophysics at the University of Hawaii’s School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST).

According to the Sun Sentinel, Dr. Fletcher said that the extreme rainfall on the island of Kauai is what can be now be expected with a warmer atmosphere.

“Just recognize that we’re moving into a new climate, and our communities are scaled and built for a climate that no longer exists,” said Dr. Fletcher.

By Chrissy Sexton, Earth.com Staff Writer

Image Credit: Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Verdura/U.S. Coast Guard via AP